There have been four times in my life when I have felt born again.
The first time was in 1982 when I first received the Lord Jesus. The second time was in 1985 when I read Charles Finney’s Lectures on Revival and learned that I could really be delivered from all addiction to sin. The third time was when I experienced church life for the first time.
The fourth time was tonight.
I got an email just before I got to bed that I was sure I could not answer. It contained questions like …
- Others have died with leukemia, some who prayed along with thousands of others for healing and life. Why were their prayers unheard, and yours heard?
- If you were trusting God for life, why did you even take the treatments? Why not just leave it in God’s hands, and not science?
Let’s just leave it with those two questions because they pretty much sum up the email.
I didn’t know how to answer the person who wrote, so I figured I would sleep on it. As I walked up the stairs, I was already composing my return letter. As I got in my pj’s and climbed into bed, I realized that I knew exactly what I wanted to say.
But did I really want to get out of that bed I just got into?
Well … here I am.
Why Were My Prayers Heard and Theirs Weren’t?
As to exactly why, I don’t know.
I do have some principles I think apply. I suspect all of you, even my regular readers, will find a new perspective in them.
If the prayers we are talking about are that we would survive leukemia, then the prayers of my friends were answered, and the prayers of those who died were not heard.
I didn’t pray any prayers like that.
[God] deals with all sorts of men similarly, so that all together share his favor and reproofs. His will is that outcasts and elect should have adversities and prosperities in common, that all of us should have the same experience of his goodness and his severity. Having learned these things from [Jesus’] own lips, we love his goodness, we fear his wrath, while you [Romans] treat both with contempt. As a result, the sufferings of this life … are in our case gracious admonitions, while in yours they are divine punishments. We are not the least bit put out. … Only one thing in life greatly concerns us, and that is to get quickly out of it. (Tertullian, Apology 41)
I don’t know if any of you have embraced such a perspective, but since I knew about this passage before I had leukemia, I gave thought to it. Do I really believe the things I teach?
The Scripture has something to say on this subject, too.
[I have] a desire to depart and be with the King, which is far better. (Php. 1:23)
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. (Ps. 116:15)
The righteous perish, and no one considers it deeply. Merciful men are taken away, no one understanding that the righteous one is taken away from evil to come. He shall enter into peace. They shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his own uprightness. (Isa. 57:1-2)
For a Christian, dying is not a bad thing, it is a good thing. In fact, it is the better thing.
If I was left here on earth, then I was left here for a reason. Maybe it was to answer questions like this.
In the United States, real Christianity is almost exclusively a rumor or a memory. It is true of me as well.
In faith, I am a cripple, like most Americans. I hobble along, always looking, always hunting. I’m trying to find real food for my spirit–supernatural food that is not boxed up, packaged up, and infused with artifical replacements for the grains planted in good ground.
Unlike most, I know that true food exists. Even better, I have scoured the earth enough to find some. I have heard the rumors. I have the memory because I have heard the stories passed down from the beginning.
Hobbling along, I am trying to find strength to live those rumors and memories, but at least I know what they are. Most are satisfied living off spiritual Pop Tarts and Ramen noodles.
I am sorry that real Christianity is so rare, so difficult to find, in our country. I am sorry that people who write emails like this can’t get real answers.
CHRISTIANS AREN’T AFRAID TO DIE. THEY LONG FOR IT.
I’m so sorry that you haven’t seen that much. Mourn for them, for most are trained daily in the importance of living and avoiding pain and suffering. It is rare for them to have counterintelligence against the lies of our common enemy.
The Real Goal
The real goal of a Christian is not avoiding suffering. We would never want to avoid suffering (were we properly taught).
The real goal of a Christian is to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” on the day when all men will be judged by the Proclamation of King Jesus, who has been proven to be the Son of God by the resurrection of the dead.
The route to that goal is pain and suffering.
It is through many troubles that we must enter into the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22)
My brothers, consider it all joy when you fall into various troubles. For you know this: the testing of your faith produces patiences. Let patience have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (Jam. 1:2-5)
PERFECT AND COMPLETE, LACKING NOTHING?
THAT’S FOR ME!
That’s the Christian’s desire. That is the Christian hope.
We exult in troubles as well because we know that troubles create patience, patience [creates] proven character, and prove character hope. And hope does not disappoint because the love of God is poured lavishly in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 5:2-5)
For to you it has been granted on behalf of the King not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake. (Php. 1:29)
I always wonder if there are any Christians today who have that last verse in their promise box. The Christians of Tertullian’s time would have had it in there.
It is quite true that our desire is to suffer, but it is in the way that a soldier longs for war. No one indeed suffers willingly, since suffering necessarily implies fear and danger. Yet the man who objected to the conflict both fights with all his strength, and, when victorious, he rejoices in the battle because he reaps from it glory and spoil.
Glory and spoil. Ours is spiritual, heavenly, but even more real.
If You Were Trusting God for Life, Why Even Take the Treatments?
My job is to run the course God marks out for me. I was excited to face the pain, and I am so glad I got to do so. Leukemia would have killed me peacefully. I had a little pain when the tumor on my back tore open, and it was uncomfortable to lay down with such a swollen spleen, but, in general, I was simply going slowly into a sleep that I would not be able to be awakened from until Jesus called my name.
I was doing what God told me to, as best as I knew how.
That’s what Christians do. They hope for nothing but that they accurately find his will, and then they can depart this life to wait in the presence of our King for the promised resurrection and judgment.
My answer is that those whose prayers were “not answered,” and who slipped into the presence of Jesus, were every bit as fortunate as me. I was not fortunate because I lived. I was fortunate because I suffered, embraced the suffering with joy, and found patience and wisdom. They were fortunate if they knew God and Jesus, God’s Anointed, and they died. They are waiting now in his blessed presence for the day of the Lord.
It is unfortunate that some of them didn’t know how wonderful it is for the righteous to pass on and avoid evil. Others knew it quite deeply and embraced their trip home with joy.
As I said, we are a crippled bunch, we American Christians. It is possible that in India or Kenya, God may have chosen to simply heal me through the laying on of hands of the saints. Such things happen regularly there. They happen here, too, but not so often because so many of us are like me, injured in faith from a life of luxury in a right-handed society that does not know the value of intuition.